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Dean rubbed at his temples as the loud, blaring music from across the hallway only seemed to get louder as time went on. He tried to be the good brother and ignore it, but this was too much; some of them had some goddamn studying to do.

With a sigh, Dean stood up and made his way to Sam’s door. The music of some famous pop singer was muted by the door, but not nearly enough to make a difference.

“Sammy!” Dean shouted, banging his fist on the door as loudly as he could. “Turn that shit off! I can’t concentrate!”

The music didn’t lower in volume at all, but the door did swing open, revealing a vindictive-looking Sam.

“Oh?” he said over the music, holding a hand to his chest in mock-surprise. “I’m sorry, does it bug you to have noise going when you’re trying to concentrate on important things?”

Dean frowned, not yet clued into whatever point Sam was trying to make.

“Yeah, it does! Use headphones or something.”

Sam raised an eyebrow and pulled out a remote, pressing a button and causing the music to drastically lower in volume.

“Have quieter sexcapades, please,” Sam said bluntly, slamming the door shut in Dean’s face.

Dean paused as he stared at the door in front of him, shrugging to himself. He hadn’t realized they’d been so loud.

The door swung open again.

“And he’s not ‘shit’, okay?” Sam said, holding out an accusatory finger. “He’s amazing.”

“What?”

“Castiel.”

Dean groaned and rolled his eyes.

“What ever. I’ll keep it down if you keep it down, okay?” Dean said, and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

Sam regarded him silently for a few moments.

“Were they your soulmate?”

Dean sighed internally, bracing himself for another Conversation With Sam that he really wasn’t in the mood to listen to. Just because Sam was a prude didn’t mean that he had to be one.

“No, Sam. She wasn’t,” Dean said, practically daring Sam to say something about it. “She had a rose on her palm.”

Sam’s expression grew soft, like he was pitying his brother.

Ugh.

Pity.

“I don’t understand why you bother with other people,” Sam murmured. “Your soulmate’s gonna show up eventually. Fate will bring you together.”

“And when they do, I'll have lots of practice,” Dean said snidely. Sam was lucky enough to have already found the other person with a star on her wrist, and that was enough for him, but that didn't mean he was an expert on soulmates or anything.

“Mom would have wanted you to keep looking,” Sam said quietly.

Dean took a step back, amazed that Sam would stoop that low.

“Too far.”

Without waiting for another comment, Dean turned around and went back into his own room, the sounds of Castiel’s voice growing much quieter in the background.

He shut the door quietly behind him, fending off the small nagging thought that Sam was right - but why should he have to wait until his soulmate showed up? Soulmates were overrated anyway. The idea that there was only one person in the entire world that would be the best for him?

Stupid.

If only everyone else didn't buy into it.

Even you do a little, said that nagging voice in his head. You want to find them.

You don't want to be alone.

Dean found himself standing in front of the mirror on his wall, playing with the hem of his shirt as he stared at himself.

He knew what it looked like.

He'd seen it thousands of times.

And yet -

Dean slowly lifted his shirt up and over his head, tossing it to the ground so that he could get a good look at the soulmark on his chest.

There, on his left pectoral, right above where his heart would be, was the silhouette of a flying bird.

The only one of its kind that Dean had ever seen.

The sound of Castiel’s voice filled the house as Sam, once again, blasted his music unrepentantly.

Dean growled and stomped over to the collection of records that his parents had bought found for him at a garage sale once a long time ago, pulled one out at random, and stuck it in the record player at full volume.

***

Dean flipped the grilled cheese sandwich over in the pan, yawning and rubbing at his eyes as he did so.

Sam had apparently thought it would be funny to play that damn Castiel album loudly during the night at least twice through. At this point it wasn't worth saying anything; he’d get bored of revenge soon enough.

“Grilled cheese?” Dean asked when Sam walked into the kitchen with his laptop.

“Sure.” Sam ran a hand through his hair and set up his laptop.

“So,” Dean said, grabbing a plate and setting it down behind the laptop. “Have you thought about what you might want for a birthday present?”

“Yep,” Sam said, eyes fixed to the computer screen.

Dean waited for a response.

“...and what is it?”

“You won't get me it.”

Dean frowned.

“Try me.”

As if on cue, Sam turned his laptop to face Dean, and onscreen was a very large picture of a handsome man with dark hair, wearing a flashy suit and holding a microphone up towards the sky while three words were printed across the screen.

Castiel Tour Dates

Dean groaned.

“Dude, he’s not even good.”

“You’re just saying that ‘cause he’s popular,” Sam said with a scoff. “He’s incredible, Dean. He’s popular because he has talent - and I hear that he’s even better live.”

Dean scooped up the grilled cheese sandwich and plopped it onto Sam’s plate.

“He’s popular because he’s pretty and has a nice ass.”

“You can’t even see his ass in that picture,” Sam said incredulously.

“He’s everywhere, Sam. I’ve seen his ass. Lucky soulmate, whoever they are.”

He grabbed two more slices of bread and began compiling another sandwich, only with double the cheese this time.

“Yeah, too bad no one knows,” Sam said, turning the laptop back around to face him like he’d just said the most natural sentence in the world.

Dean frowned.

A celebrity not knowing who their soulmate was? That was completely unheard of. With all of the fame and the money and the people that they had access to, it took a month tops to locate someone with the same mark and mark placement, and then a short amount of time after that to figure out which people had gotten their mark tattooed recently in hopes of tricking them, and which was the real deal.  

Must be nice.

Dean shook that thought out of his head.

“Why not?” he asked. “All he’d have to do is post his soulmark on his instagram and there you have it. A screaming fan whose life has been changed forever.”

“Castiel’s not like that,” Sam explained, sounding a little smug that Dean had predicted incorrectly. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any shirtless pictures of him, but he’s covered in tattoos and all of them could potentially be soulmarks.” Sam shrugged and typed something rapidly on the computer. “No one knows which is his real one, and I think he likes it that way. Makes it so no one can fake it.”

Made sense, Dean supposed. But wouldn’t that just make it harder for your soulmate to find you? Too many other confusing tattoos and your soulmate might walk right on past you and not realize a goddamn thing.

Maybe Castiel was like Dean, though. Maybe he didn’t really care.

“Alright, let’s see ‘em,” Dean said flipping his sandwich on the burner before scooting a chair next to Sam’s to get a good view of the laptop, while Sam looked at him curiously.  

“The tattoos?” he asked.

“Yeah.” Dean waved a hand, trying to hurry him along. “Seems like he’s got a decent strategy and I could use some tips.”

Sam rolled his eyes and started typing.

“He’s not like you, Dean. It’s not like he’s doing this to hide. Castiel only got a bajillion more tattoos because he was worried that people would copy his mark to trick him. People still do, obviously, but apparently they always get it wrong or someone finds their real mark.” Sam shook his head and tutted. “That’s so dumb. Just go and find your real soulmate.”

Dean gave a non-commital grunt and waited until Sam had pulled up the Great Castiel’s instagram, and started flipping through the photos.

“So,” Sam said, like he was about to start a PowerPoint. “He’s got a sun on his left wrist, right there, and a waning moon on his right wrist. Those are popular ones. And then there’s...”

Sam droned on.

Castiel, Dean learned, was very attractive.

He’d always known on some level that Castiel was good-looking, but this was really the first time that Dean had really offered the musician any semblance of deep thought and study. Castiel was tan, well-built, had incredible blue eyes, windswept-hair, and an award winning smile. If money could buy it, Castiel probably had it.

“You promised shirtless pics, Sammy,” Dean said snapping his fingers impatiently. “Get on that.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sam muttered. “Hold on. Let me find the photoshoot.”

Dean tapped his foot as Sam did a quick internet search, and delivered on his original promise of Castiel sans shirt.

He let out a low whistle.

“Damn. He sure knows how to hide that mark.”

Castiel was spread out, smirking at the camera like he knew exactly how many people would be staring at him and trying to pick apart each and every tattoo he had on his skin - and there were a lot of them.

Both of his arms were covered in different markings - there were leaves and berries and flowers and religious symbols and geometric designs and words and all sorts of tattoos that were all patterned up each arm, leaving delicate spaces in between the ink so that each design was distinct from the others.

The most intriguing tattoos were on Castiel’s chest.

Stunning geometric work crawled across Castiel’s abdomen - small boxes that turned into triangles connected together intricately - and Dean marvelled at the brilliance of it. Any one of those small boxes could be a soul mark and no one would ever be able to begin a guess at it. Further up onto his chest was a small forest of trees that lined across his entire pectoral region, layering beautifully with a night sky above it.

“Yeah,” Sam said with an impressed chuckle. “So, that’s why no one knows who his soulmate is. The only person who will is probably the soulmate.”

“Did you look to see if yours was there before you met Eileen?” Dean asked, nudging his brother with a wry smile and laughing when he turned pink in the face.

“Shut up,” Sam muttered, closing his laptop and grabbing the grilled cheese sandwich.

“Called it,” Dean said with a wink, and went back over to the sandwich that's he'd probably burned from neglecting it for so long.

Dean didn't blame Sam, though. A guy as attractive as that, with a mysterious soulmate? Might as well try, right?

“I'm heading over to Eileen’s,” Sam said, then stuffed the sandwich in his mouth as he put his laptop in his bag. “I'll be back late.”

Dean waved a hand dismissively.

“Have fun. Tell her I say ‘hi’.”

Sam waved as he slung the bag over his shoulder and headed out the door without another word, but all of the talk about Castiel stayed with Dean, bouncing around in his head.

As overrated as he thought the guy way, he couldn’t deny that Castiel was clever about the soulmate thing.

Dean shrugged to himself and put his sandwich on a plate, checking off Think of a Present for Sam off of his to-do list as he yanked his mind back to the present.

At least this birthday present would a be a simple one, no matter how much Dean fundamentally disagreed with it.

***

For whatever goddamn reason, Dean couldn't get Castiel out of his head. The voice that he'd heard on Sam’s CD’s was ringing through his head on repeat, and the tattoos kept flashing in front of him as he tried to fall asleep.

The trees were a beautiful touch, and the moon above them -

Was it a moon? Or was it a star?

He frowned as he tried to remember what the exact tattoo had been, and where it was placed. Perhaps that one had been the soulmark?

Why the hell did he even care?

Dean had next to zero interest in the pop singer - never had and never would - but for some reason he kept coming back to the tattoos. Everything about him was so mysterious… Dean couldn't help but be a little intrigued.

The curiosity ate at him until he finally gave in, pulled out his phone, and did a search for: Castiel soulmark.

The first few results were clickbait articles discussing Castiel's various tattoos, including one article that was pleading Castiel's fanbase to just leave him alone about it, since he was obviously hiding it for a reason.

Then, Dean found the forums.

Thousands of people were talking to each other about Castiel's mystery soulmark and they all had Opinions. Some people had uncovered older pictures of the singer with fewer tattoos on his arms. and could therefore eliminate some of them as possibilities, as they were obviously tattoos he'd had done later in life. Some of the more intense fans had even gone so far as to find the tattoo artists Castiel had gone to, but they had apparently been paid generously to keep their mouths shut.

Dean rubbed at his eyes and sighed.

People were crazy about this stuff.

As far as he could tell, some theories were much more popular than others. Like he'd predicted, the most common idea was that his soulmark was one of the small squares or triangles that were looped together across his abdomen as it would be a genius disguise, but others were more convinced that someone as amazing as Castiel would have a soulmark with more meaning than that.

That was bullshit talk, of course. Soulmarks were just marks.

One fan was convinced that the soulmark was one of the trees in the backdrop of Castiel's forest, which Dean thought was pretty plausible as well.

Another few fans were having a discussion about it being a flower on Castiel's back, and were arguing with a different group about why it would never be the cross on his elbow.

Dean's eyes started to ache as he got much deeper into this than he'd ever meant to.

He was about to close out of the forum when one last comment caught his eye.

“Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the bird on his chest? It's in the trees but it's still there. Seems pretty suspicious to me...lol.”

Dean froze, his hands hovering above the keyboard as he processed what he'd just read. A bird? On his chest?

Probably just a coincidence. He didn't remember seeing anything like that in the slightest, and a bird is something that Dean would have definitely remembered.

Dean searched for the shirtless photographs again, chewing on his bottom lip as he waited for them to load. The pictures finally popped up and Dean pressed on one that gave a clear view of his chest with a shaky finger.

See? There was no bird. Just trees.

He squinted and double-tapped on his phone, zooming in closer, and sucked in a breath.

It was hard to make out if you weren't specifically looking for it, but among the trees, flying in between the branches, was the silhouette of a small bird right above where Castiel's heart would be.

No way.

Not him.

Not like this .

Dean sat up slowly, staring at the bird. Numbly, he got to his feet, turned on the lights, and went to stand shirtless in front of his mirror. Holding the phone up next to his chest, he stared at each mark side-by-side.

It was a perfect match.

The phone grew slippery in his hands and he nearly dropped it, but caught himself just in time. What - what the hell was he supposed to do with this information now? It had to be some mistake, right? Castiel just so happened to have that bird tattooed in the same spot as Dean. That had to be it. The soulmark was one of the others.

Dean continued to stare at the bird on the screen, while a war was waging inside of himself. He’d gone twenty-four years without knowing who his soulmate was, and now he might very well have the answer right in front of his face - but he hadn’t decided yet if he wanted to know. According to everyone else - to tradition, to common knowledge - Castiel, as his soulmate, was going to be just as perfect a match for Dean as their marks were. But it had always sure seemed like a whole lot of BS to him.

But if it wasn’t...

No more would he have to put on the “I don’t care about soulmates” schtick he always did when people asked if they’d met yet. That entire charade could be dumped forever.

But Castiel?

He was untouchable. He was huge and important and everything that Dean wasn’t.

Dean would be thrown into a whole different world.

No.

He shook his head and set his phone on the dresser. It had to be a mistake - a coincidence.

There was no way his soulmate was some sparkly-clad, famous pop singer with a rabid fanbase.

Dean shoved his head underneath his pillow and groaned.

***

A soulmate, Dean had hoped, would be an easy thing to ignore.

He’d been doing it for his entire life.

But the moment he’d figured out who it was (because no, there was no amount of self-convincing he could do to talk himself into the coincidental tattoo story), it was like an itch that he couldn’t scratch. Everything reminded him of Castiel.

His days were spent listening to Sam ramble on about either his soulmate, Eileen, or Castiel, his idol, and neither were great options for Dean to be listening to.

What if -

What if he could just talk to Castiel?

That was all he really wanted.

He wasn’t sold on soulmates, and it seemed like maybe Castiel wasn’t either - but if he had a chance to sit down and talk with the guy that was supposed to be his soulmate, maybe they could figure out their shit together, and at the very least Dean could get him out of his head for good and say that he tried.

But as it turns out, trying to make that happen was difficult.

After a little searching he found the name and number of Castiel’s agent, who just laughed and hung up on him. No letters he sent were returned, and no one ever tried to get back in contact with him.

Weeks passed with no success, and Dean even went so far as to create an Instagram just for the purpose of posting a picture of the soulmark and tagging Castiel in it, but rejected that idea and deleted the account when he realized that Castiel would probably just think it was photo-shopped (if  he even saw it) and it would draw attention to the only trump card Dean had over all of the fakers.

It was frustrating, and not just because getting a hold of Castiel was apparently impossible - but because it probably made him seem crazy and desperate to these people, when all he wanted was to figure out if this was the real deal.

And meanwhile, Sam’s birthday was coming up, and he had one last idea.

***

“Oh my god, thank you!” Sam threw his arms around Dean in a tight hug after opening the envelope Dean had left lying on the table for him to open. “Dude. I didn’t think you’d actually get them for me!”

Dean shrugged, trying to fight off whatever confusing feelings were brewing up.

“Don’t get too excited. They’re shitty seats.”

“I don’t care!” Sam was grinning as he looked at the slips of paper. “... but why’s there three of them?”

“Well...” Dean cleared his throat awkwardly. “You and Eileen, obviously, and I’ve been listening to his stuff recently, and I guess he’s not as bad as I thought he was before. I was thinking that maybe I could -”

“Yes! Absolutely!” Sam nodded, more enthusiastic than Dean had thought he’d be, but he’d take what he could get.

“Alright, cool,” Dean said, trying to seem nonchalant about it, but his heart was racing.

He was going to go and see his soulmate in concert, and he was going to do it without tipping his brother off.

***

Dean stood in front of his mirror at least two hours on the day of the concert, fidgeting and fixing how he looked. He went through four different shirts, three different pairs of jeans, and two different pairs of shoes before finally settling on an outfit.

This was ridiculous.

He’d never cared this much before.

There was a banging on his door, and Dean jumped in the middle of putting on a leather jacket.

“You ready to go, Dean?”

Dean sucked in a deep breath of air and let it out slowly, right before opening the door and shrugging his shoulders at his brother and Eileen, both of whom were wearing Castiel shirts.

“Sure. Might as well,” Dean said, trying to keep his cool. “How long is this supposed to take again?”

“It takes as long as it will take,” Eileen said, signing with her hands along with her words, her matching star mark visible on her wrist. “And you’re going to like it.”

Dean shook his head with a smile, stepping out and closing the door behind him.

“Alright. Let’s get this over with, then.”

The drive there consisted of Dean struggling to pay attention to the road while simultaneously trying to keep himself calm. This was going to go fine. He’d just slip away and try to convince security that he was the real deal. They had to know what Castiel’s real soulmark looked like for just such an occasion, right?

God, he hoped.

By the time they finally got to the concert, Dean was a wreck and it was a miracle that Sam hadn’t noticed. Though, to be fair, the excitement of seeing Castiel in concert as well as all of the screaming fans around them probably helped.

They were each handed a red ticket with a number as they exchanged their passes, and were ushered inside.

A perk that he hadn’t counted on was Eileen. Apparently, Castiel’s concert offered disabled seating for people who were deaf or hard of hearing, so the tickets Dean bought them were upgraded to seats ridiculously close to the stage so that Eileen could watch the interpreter.

There they were, just a few rows away from where Castiel would be standing not too long from now.

Sam and Eileen were signing furiously beside him, and Dean was just trying to not have a heart attack.

This was so drastically different from any other soulmate story he’d ever heard. Sam had met Eileen during a class. His parents had met at a car dealership. Everyone he’d ever talked to had met each other at the exact same time.

He’d never heard of a story where only one knew that the other existed, so he had no script to follow.

The opening band finished playing and everything went dark.

“What’s happening?” Sam whispered.

Lights flashed brightly once, carving the image of wings into Dean’s retinas so it was all that he saw when he blinked rapidly - and then there was Castiel. Standing under a spotlight on stage in a dark fitted suit, just in front of where the wings flashed, was Dean’s soulmate.

That word hadn’t been officially connected to Castiel in Dean’s brain until that very moment, but it was like something inside of him had been ignited as soon as Dean laid eyes on him.

Soulmate.

The crowd went wild, and so did Dean’s heart.

Music began to fill the concert hall, and Castiel’s smooth baritone joined in, nearly drowned out from all of the screaming.

He was beautiful. His face, his voice, his stage presence - everything about him was absolutely stunning.

The first song faded into riotous applause and Castiel rubbed at the back of his neck in what Dean would have normally interpreted as an awkward gesture.

“How are you all doing tonight?” Castiel asked, his voice amplified through his microphone. “Thank you all for coming. That means a lot to me.”

Dean could hear the sincerity in his voice as he spoke, and it didn’t sound like he was reciting a script of any kind.

“Well, I believe I know why you’re all here, so let’s get to it.” He smiled shyly - an emotion Dean hadn’t expected from someone who was absolutely covered in tattoos and was smirking in almost every photoshoot he’d ever seen. “I hope you like my songs, because that’s all I have for you tonight.”

A second song started to play and Dean was just as mesmerized as he’d been during the first, staring up at the pop icon as he walked back and forth on the stage with the lightshow behind him trying - and failing - to overshadow his performance.

Dean had to meet him.

Everything was going fine, and then Castiel caught Dean’s stare during his fourth song of the night, and winked.

Dean ducked his head as his face flushed bright red, and Sam elbowed him furiously.

His soulmate had winked at him.

“Thank you very much!” Castiel said at the end of his fifth song, wiping some sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. “Now, if I could please have you all pull out the red tickets you got at the beginning of the concert. We’re going to pick a winner.”

Dean frowned and turned to Sam for clarification while he pulled out the ticket he’d shoved in his pocket.

“Winner?”

“He does this every concert!” Sam said over the screaming of the crowd. “Someone gets to go up on stage with him for a song and get serenaded!”

The ticket Dean had in his hand suddenly felt a lot heavier.

A large bucket was brought on stage by someone wearing all black, and Castiel thanked them with a nod before shoving a hand inside and swirling it around.

Castiel smiled and pulled his hand out, glancing down at the ticket.

“The number,” he said, squinting his eyes, “is -”

47654 , Dean pleaded.

“- 47638!”  

His heart plummeted into his stomach.

It wasn’t him.

A woman about Dean’s age with short dark hair was helped onto the stage, and it looked like she could faint at any moment.

“Hi there; I’m Castiel,” Castiel said, introducing himself as if she didn’t know who he was. “What’s your name?”

The woman leaned towards the mic.

“Uh, Hannah,” she said shyly.

“Hello, Hannah,” Castiel said, a comforting smile on his face. “What brings you here tonight?”

“It’s - it’s my birthday, actually.”

Castiel’s face lit up like it was the best news he’d heard all night.

Really ? Well, happy birthday, Hannah!” He turned to look off stage. “The band knows Happy Birthday, right? Can we sing that?”

Dean stood up from his seat.

“Where you going?” Sam asked, looking at Dean curiously.

“Bathroom,” Dean muttered, and started winding his way through a sea of people as Castiel’s perfect voice flooded the hall again.

That should have been him.

***

It didn’t take long for Dean to find security near the side stage entrance. There were dozens of screaming fans that were occasionally trying to push their way past, only to be blocked.

“Excuse me -” Dean waved to one of the security team, a large man with a name tag that said Uriel , who looked at him cautiously. “Hey - can I talk to you?”

“What can I help you with?” Uriel said, eyeing Dean up and down as he got close.

“Look...” Dean leaned in and lowered his voice. “I know that you’re going to think that I’m just some crazy fan, but I need to talk to Castiel after the show.”

Uriel raised an eyebrow.

“Mmmhmm. And why’s that?”

Dean tugged down the collar of his shirt - which was more uncomfortable than just pulling it off altogether - until the bird on his chest was visible.

“I’m his soulmate.”

Uriel’s face remained stony as he nodded his head towards a group of half a dozen or so people near the entrance, all looking put-out.

“So are they. All different marks though, funnily enough.”

Dean clenched his jaw, trying to force down his frustration.

“This is different. I’m the real thing.” He let out a breath. “Please, I just want to talk to him.”

“Sorry, kid.” Uriel shook his head. “I can’t do that. Go back and enjoy the rest of the concert without trying to con a celebrity, okay?”

“I’m not conning anyone!” Dean insisted. “I’m only here because we have the same mark! I didn’t even like Castiel!”

Uriel folded his arms in front of his chest, looking annoyed.

“I’ve heard this story seven times tonight already and I’m tired of it. Leave or I’ll make you leave.”

Dean stared him down, considering his options. Causing a scene might get him noticed, but it also would be a guaranteed way to make sure he was never allowed near Castiel ever again, which was definitely high on his list of things he didn’t want.

“Please,” he said softly. “I just want to get this soulmate thing out of the way.”

Uriel didn’t move, and Dean felt his own resolve crumble. It wasn’t like there was a point, anyway. Castiel would have either just told him it was a coincidence - or not wanted to have anything to do with him, even if he’d believed they were soulmates.

“Fine,” Dean muttered.

It was over. He’d done everything he could short of literally stalking the guy for as long as it took to get within hearing range - and it wasn’t like Castiel would wait to hear what Dean had to say, in that scenario, before taking a out a restraining order. Besides, this soulmate crap wasn’t worth wrapping his whole damn life around. He’d tried, and that’d have to be good enough.

He walked down the hall, out of the concert - and out of Castiel’s life for good.

***

Hey, where are you? Concert’s almost over. -SW

Dean was sitting in the Impala, staring at the picture of Castiel’s soulmark, when Sam’s text appeared on his screen.

You’ve been in the bathroom for a while. Everything okay? -SW

The follow-up text came soon after. Dean sighed. Sam texted once when he was concerned, double-texted when he was outright worried, and never triple-texted. He just started moving heaven and earth to find Dean, wherever he was.

I’m fine. -DW

The reply Dean sent was stark. He didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to think about where he was or what he was doing or any of it. That text alone wouldn’t be enough to reassure Sam, though. He gritted his teeth and typed out,

I’ll be in the Impala. -DW

He shoved his phone into his pocket, and leaned back in his seat.

Whoever said that fate always brought soulmates together was a fucking liar.

So far it seemed like absolutely nothing was going right, and that the universe was actively working against him at every turn to keep them apart.

Maybe it was supposed to be a sign that Dean was wrong about them. Maybe it was just a coincidence.

Maybe every single thing was just a coincidence, and Dean had made a damn fool of himself over nothing.  

Fifteen minutes of wallowing in self-pity later, there was a tap on the window from Sam, with Eileen right behind him.

Dean unlocked the doors and avoided eye contact with both of them.

“Over already?” he asked.

“More or less,” Sam answered, sounding cautious.

“Alright, then.” Dean turned on the car and headed out.

It wasn’t until they had dropped Eileen off at her house that Sam broke the silence.

“Dean,” he said hesitantly. “Are you alright?”

“Fucking fine.”

“So that’s a no.”

Dean pulled out his phone, brought up the picture of the bird on Castiel’s chest, and tossed it into Sam’s lap, staring forwards and bracing for his brother’s reaction.

“What - what’s this?” Sam asked. “I don’t - is this Castiel?”

Dean didn’t say one way or another. Sam was smart. He’d figure it out.

“I don’t understand. I showed you these.”

“Look harder, Sam. In the trees.”

Dean’s grip on the wheel tightened.

“Okay, well that’s - that’s - is that a bird? It’s - is that your bird? ” Dean could hear Sam start breathing more rapidly. “Oh my god ! Castiel is your soulmate ?”

Small and continuous punches landed on his arm, causing Dean to flinch - but he let them rain down on him.

“Holy shit, Dean. Castiel - Castiel is your soulmate. He’s -” Sam was sputtering now, in a way Dean had often heard him do when he got overwhelmed. It would have been funny, if he wasn’t in such a foul mood. “You have to talk to him!”

Dean scoffed and shook his head.

“You do !” Sam gripped Dean’s arm and shook it. “Dean - this is amazing! You found your soulmate! You need to talk -”

Dean slammed on the brakes, thankful for a quiet night and an empty road. He pulled over onto the side of the street so he could glare at his brother more effectively.  

“I’ve been trying to for weeks , Sam!” Dean practically growled at him. “I’ve called his agent. I’ve mailed his agency. I’ve talked to his security team. No one is letting me talk to him!”

Dean banged a hand on the steering wheel in an outburst of frustration.

“I’ve finally found him, you know? And he’s fucking out of reach.”

Sam was silent for a while, which left Dean alone with his thoughts for longer than he would have liked. This is was going to be it. Dean was going to spend the rest of his life alone because his soulmate was too famous for him to talk to.

He could have laughed at the absurdity of it.

“Well,” Sam said finally. “You have to keep trying.”

Dean shook his head and leaned forward until his forehead rested against the steering wheel. What was the point? It was never going to happen, and it was just going to keeping hurting him. He might as well just let the guy do his thing and leave him alone.

“You do. You have to keep trying. Fate will bring you guys together,” Sam said, sounding a lot more confident that Dean had ever felt in his life. “You’re soulmates.”

“What am I supposed to do, Sam?” Dean muttered. “I’ve tried everything.”

Sam shrugged his shoulders.

“You could start by going to his concert tomorrow night. It’s just a few cities over. Maybe you’ll have better luck next time.”

Dean sat up a little, so he could shake his head at Sam.

“It’s sold out, dude. I couldn’t even get in.”

“About that...” Sam cleared his throat suspiciously. “Remember how I thought you weren’t going to get me those tickets for my birthday?”

Dean gaped at him, not wanting to get his hopes up.

“You have some?”

Sam smiled sheepishly and nodded once.

“We can use them tomorrow if you want.”

Did he want? What were the chances that anything was going to change? Things were probably going to play out exactly like they had tonight.

But what did he have to lose?

More heartbreak, obviously, but Sam would never forgive him if he didn’t at least try this one last time.

“Alright. One last try.” Dean started the car again and pointed a finger at his brother. “But then I’m done.”

Sam grinned and shook his head as he stared down at his lap.

Castiel. I can’t believe it.”

***

Positive thoughts.

Dean took a deep breath as he stepped inside the concert hall with his brother, red ticket in hand. Sam told him that he had to think positive thoughts during their time at the concert.

Their seats weren’t nearly as good without Eileen, but that was alright with him. The less he saw Castiel up close, the less - he hoped - it would hurt, when nothing happened.

Or maybe it would happen.

Positive thoughts.

The concert started just as it had before, the darkness and the bright flash that made it seem like Castiel had wings.

And his voice -

His voice made Dean weak.

How had he ever thought that this guy wasn’t good?

“Thank you for the warm welcome.” Castiel smiled and chuckled into the mic. “You’re all too nice to me. The next song is going to be something from my first album, so I hope you’ll all forgive me if I indulge myself in a personal favorite of mine.”

Castiel was just as adorable as he’d been the night before, killing each song like every time performing it was his best time performing it.

Dammit.

They hadn’t ever met and Dean was head over heels.

As each song ended, Dean felt more and more dread build in his stomach. It was almost time for the serenade, and some lucky bastard was going to have the best five minutes of their life up on stage with Dean’s soulmate.

Positive. Thoughts.

“Thank you guys so much!” Castiel waved at a fan on the front row as he reached for a water bottle on a stool and took a long swig. “Alright. And now we come to my favorite part of the night, where I get to meet one of you.”

The audience started screaming, and Dean felt like he was going to puke.

“If you could all please take out the red ticket you were given at the start of the concert? I’m about to choose a winner.”

Dean pulled out his ticket with shaking hands and gripped it tightly, like he hadn’t already memorized the number to an obsessive degree.

  1. Please. This is my last chance.

Castiel reached into the large bucket of tickets and began fishing around dramatically.

Positive thoughts.

“The winner…” Castiel said, holding the ticket up to the light. “Is 47900!”

And that was that.

Dean’s heart plummeted to the ground along with any hope he had of meeting his soulmate.

Everyone in the stadium scrambled to check their tickets and hopefully catch a glimpse of who the winner was, but Dean knew it wasn’t him, and that was all he needed to give up completely.

He sunk into his seat, completely dejected and ready to leave the stadium completely. Watching Castiel meet someone else would only hurt him even more,

Dean looked over at Sam with an ‘I-told-you-so’ expression on his face.

Sam, however, had a hand on his mouth, and was staring down at his own ticket.

“What?” Dean asked.

Sam removed the hand from his mouth and turned his ticket around so that Dean could get a good look at the number on the front.

“Anyone?” Castiel’s voice filled the hall. “Who has 47900?”

Sam smiled so widely Dean thought his face would split in half as he shoved the ticket into Dean’s hands.

“Back here!” Sam stood up and waved his arms before pointing excitedly at Dean, who was sitting in silence and staring at the ticket in his hands. “It’s back here! My brother’s got it!”

A team of two security members, neither of whom were Uriel, came up to Dean’s seat to check the ticket before escorting him down towards the front of the stage.

Dean glanced back at Sam with a terrified look on his face, but Sam just smiled and gave him two thumbs up.

Oh god.

They were getting dangerously close to the stage and Dean could see Castiel watching him with a smile as he approached.

This was it.

Now or never.

Dean was helped onto the stage by security, and suddenly everything was spotlights and Castiel.

“Hey there!” Castiel said and reached a hand out for Dean to grasp. “I’m Castiel.”

Dean reached out, his hand still shaking, and shook his hand, cherishing the touch that he’d worked so hard to have.

I know who you are.

“Oh, good!” Castiel laughed and let go of Dean’s hand.

Had he said that out loud?

“So, what’s your name, stranger?” Castiel asked, holding the microphone up to Dean’s lips.

Dean drunk in the sight of Castiel in front of him, in the flesh, and he looked just as beautiful as he did in every photograph he’d ever seen him in. He could see bits of ink peeking out underneath his designer suit, but none of those ones meant anything.

Not like the one on his chest did.

“Dean,” he said, surprised at how normal he sounded, even with his voice amplified. “Dean Winchester.”

“Dean,” Castiel repeated, nodding at him politely. “Nice to meet you. What brings you here tonight?”

There were so many things he could say.

Well, I found out a few weeks ago that you’re my soulmate. I’ve been trying to get in contact with you ever since then but you’re kind of an impossible guy to talk to and now that fate did it’s job I have to confront a bunch of stuff. I didn’t really buy into the whole soulmate thing at first and I’m still not sure if I do but I’d at least like to sit down and talk to you about it and see what you think, so here I am. Also your agent is kind of an asshole.

Those were all things he could have said.

Instead - in front of cameras, thousands of people, and Castiel - Dean Winchester pulled his shirt up and over his head, tossing it onto the ground as he stared wordlessly back at Castiel.

A few different emotions played out on Castiel’s face.

Confusion at first, obviously, due to the fact that someone had just stripped right in front of him with no explanation in the slightest - but then his eyes flicked down to Dean’s chest, and there it was. That flicker of recognition and connection that Dean had been hoping for.

It confirmed it.

Soulmate.

Castiel’s eyes widened as he stared at Dean’s mark, and for a few moments they were the only two people in the entire concert hall.

The sounds faded, the lights dimmed, and the only thing that mattered was Castiel's hand as it reached upwards towards Dean’s chest, them stopped and curled into a fist.

“Well, uh...” Castiel shook his head and brought the mic back to his own lips. “That’s one way to get a guy’s attention, I suppose.”

The audience laughed, and Dean knew they thought he was a joke - a desperate fanboy trying to make the most of his few minutes of fame.

But they didn’t know what both he and Castiel did.

Castiel leaned down and picked up Dean’s shirt and handed it back to him with a smile, but his eyes didn’t linger on Dean’s for much more than a second.

“Thank you for that display, Dean. Now... what shall we sing for you?”

Dean didn’t hear a single word of the song Castiel sang for him, as he was too busy thinking positive thoughts, hoping and praying that this wouldn’t be the last time they spoke. But he did know that Castiel was even more beautiful up close, and his voice even more perfect when Dean was the center of the song.

“Thank you very much, for coming up, Dean,” Castiel said once he’d finished, holding out a hand for Dean to shake again.

Was this it?

Was it over?

They grasped each other’s hands, Dean’s fingers lingering as they let go.

If this was how Castiel wanted it - Dean would have to let it be. This would have to be enough to last a lifetime.

Dean turned to leave with a heavy heart - but stopped when a hand gripped his shoulder, and glanced back to see Castiel staring at him softly.

“Stick around?” he whispered, his voice sounding fragile with the microphone well away from his face so no one could hear. “After the show? I’d… I’d like to talk to you.”

All the weight of endings lifted off Dean as he smiled and nodded.

“Yeah. I’d like that, too.”

Castiel’s hand lifted and allowed Dean to walk offstage again, and even though he knew the hand wasn’t there anymore, it was as if he could still feel it all the way back up to his seat next to Sam.

***

“Dean Winchester?”

Dean looked up at the same two security guards who’d escorted him to the stage and nodded, while Sam bounced one of his legs excitedly next to him. People had been filing out of the concert hall in droves ever since the concert had ended a half an hour ago and even the stragglers were starting to be escorted out by security.

“Present,” he replied.

“Castiel would like a word backstage. If you agree to it.”

Dean stood up slowly and nodded at them, taking a deep breath. Reaching into his pocket, he paused and pulled out the set of keys for his car, and gripped them tightly before tossing them to Sam.

“Just in case,” he muttered, and followed the security team back down, turning left near the stage and going somewhere completely new.

They led him down a hallway in the back, past a team of security whom Dean recognized as the staff on duty when he’d tried to talk his way in backstage. He waved when he caught sight of Uriel, who only rolled his eyes in response.

They finally reached a door in the very back with Castiel’s name taped to it, and Dean felt almost as nervous as he’d been walking down to the stage.

One of the security team rapped on the door lightly with her knuckles.

“Come in.”

She looked at Dean and gestured towards the door.

This was it, then.

Dean took a deep breath, and opened the door, stepping inside of Castiel’s dressing room.

It was a lot simpler than Dean had expected. For a guy as famous as Castiel was, he’d thought there would be all sorts of flashy gadgets and maybe even a buffet table - but all he saw was a bowl of pretzels, some water bottles, and all of his costume changes hung up on a rack.

As soon as Dean entered the room, Castiel stood up from the chair he had been sitting in and wiped his hands on his slacks.

“Dean,” he said, licking his lips as he clearly eyed him up and down. “You stayed.”

Dean nodded. The idea of leaving after coming this far was laughable.

“I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for weeks. Not about to fuck it up now.”

“Weeks? I’m -” Castiel’s gaze hardened briefly and he nodded to himself. “Right. Um. I’m sorry about this, but can I have you take off your shirt again? I want to see it.”

Dean reached up, hesitating for a moment before pulling his shirt off for the second time that day. For some reason, it had felt a lot easier to do it in front of thousands of people than it was to do it under Castiel’s scrutinizing gaze right now. It felt more... intimate.

Castiel took a step forward when Dean’s shirt was on the floor, and breathed out a soft “oh” when he saw the bird on his chest.

“I admit I’ve never had anyone fake the right one before,” he murmured, pressing two fingers against it. “So, this is new.”

“It’s not fake,” Dean said, but he didn’t blame Castiel for thinking so. The guy had probably gone through a lot. “I don’t have any other mark on me. I can strip if you want me to.”

Castiel glanced up at him and smiled for the first time since Dean had walked into the room.

“That won’t be necessary. If it is a fake, you’ve likely covered up your real mark in preparation for now.” He removed his hand from Dean’s soulmark. “But you wouldn’t be able to do it forever.”

“Can’t...” Dean said, reached out hesitantly for his hand. Things felt Right when he was touching him, and it was hard to believe that Castiel didn’t feel the same. “Can’t you feel it? This… bond, or whatever it is?”

Castiel allowed Dean to grab his hand, and he even squeezed back gently.

“There is… something,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, Dean. I’ve just… there have been a lot of people in my life that have tried to trick me. It’s hard to let myself - feel - anymore.”

“Hey, that’s okay,” Dean assured him. “I’m not asking for anything. I just kind of stumbled into this whole thing accidentally and the universe hasn’t really let me take a breather for a few weeks, so. I’m fine with slow.”

Castiel smiled at him gratefully, and squeezed his hand again.

“Can I -” Dean said, licking his lips. “Can I see yours? I’ve only ever squinted at it in terrible resolution on my phone.”

That, at least, got a laugh.

Castiel complied, undoing the buttons on his shirt and dropped it on the ground to join Dean’s.

Everything about Castiel was beautiful and distracting - the tattoos, the tan skin, the muscle definition - and it took a solid few seconds before he was able to latch onto the familiar silhouette of a bird amongst the trees below a night sky.

“Your damn forest made finding you very difficult for me,” Dean mused, pressing two fingers lightly against the mark in the same way Castiel had.

“That was the point,” Castiel said, Dean’s hand shifting slightly on Castiel’s skin when he chuckled. “But I’m glad it didn’t deter you.”

“So, what now?” Dean asked after a significant amount of silence and staring.

“I have to get on a plane in an hour,” Castiel said, and Dean was pleased to hear that he at least sounded regretful. He seemed to suddenly remember something and turned to pull something out of a drawer. “I have two more weeks of my tour left, and then... after that, I’d like to get to know you, and we can figure things out from there. How does that sound?”

He was holding out a card with a phone number on it.

“Fucking fantastic,” Dean said with one of the more genuine smiles that he’d had in a long time, and gladly took the card. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” Castiel said, and sighed when he glanced at a clock resting on his desk. “I should really get going. Naomi will have my head if we miss the flight.”

Dean nodded and reached down for both of their shirts, handing Castiel’s his before slipping his own back on. Castiel was still buttoning his back up by the time Dean reached the door and pulled it open.

“By the way...” Dean turned back around for one last glance, and couldn’t help but say one last thing. “You were amazing tonight.”

Castiel paused and looked up, blushing a little as he smiled.

“Thank you, Dean. That means a lot.”

Dean shrugged his shoulders, and closed the door behind him.

***

It shouldn’t have been this big of a deal.

Dean stared down at the phone in his hands; he was sitting in the back of class, debating for the hundredth time in three days if now would be an okay time to text a busy pop-sensation or if he should wait a little bit longer. The last thing he wanted to do was annoy Castiel with a text at the exact wrong time, and cement himself as an annoyance in his mind.

What would he even say?

Hey, it’s me. Your soulmate. Dean. Remember me? The guy that was a fucking idiot on stage? How’s it going?

Dean dropped his head into his hands and groaned.

Getting ahold of Castiel’s number was supposed to have been the hard part. Everything after meeting your soulmate was supposed to be sunshine and roses, or so he’d been told. It sure had seemed that way for Sam and for his parents.

More or less.

Sucking in a deep breath, Dean looked up to make sure his professor’s back was turned before typing out a quick message.

So which was you first tattoo? -DW

He pressed the send button before he could think about it too much and talk himself out of it and shoved the phone into his pocket, his hands already starting to feel clammy.

The phone in his pocket vibrated less than a minute later, and Dean had only just barely convinced himself to start paying attention to the lecture again.

Dean pulled his phone back out and tried not to smile down at the message.

…Dean? -CN

He licked his lips and texted back quickly - only thinking after he’d sent it that maybe the response was a little too curt.

Yep. -DW

Oh thank god. I thought you were never going to text me. -CN

Whatever the lecture was about, Dean would probably never know. He’d given up on paying attention. Right now, nothing was more important than this.

Haha sorry. I’ve been...thinking and stuff. -DW

Good things, I hope? -CN

Dean licked his lips and smiled.

Well, both Google and my brother say you haven’t murdered anyone, so… so far so good. -DW

If I were to murder someone, Google would never know :) -CN

Dean let out a breath of air in amusement and shook his head as another text came in.

How would your brother know? -CN

He’s just a big fan. -DW

Oh! Tell him I said thank you! -CN

Alright, but he will literally die on the spot. -DW

Oh dear. Don’t tell Google :) -CN

The final bell rang and Dean quickly packed up all of his things, finding another text waiting for him by the time he was walking out of class.

To answer your original question, the first one I ever got was a poison ivy leaf on my left arm. I was 16 at the time. It was a stick and poke. -CN

Dean grimaced on his behalf. Stick and pokes could be fine, as much as he knew, but sixteen year olds didn’t tend to have the best track record with, well… anything.

And it just went uphill from there? -DW

Indeed. I apologize, Dean but I will have to text you back later. My producer wants to have a quick meeting. -CN

Right.

Dean blinked at how foreign of a sentence that was to him. There had definitely been a solid few minutes where Dean had forgotten that Castiel wasn’t just an average Joe that he’d flirted with in a coffee shop.

This was Castiel. Top 40 Castiel.

That was going to take some getting used to.

***

When is your birthday? -CN

January 24th. -DW

An Aquarius. Interesting. -CN

Oh my god. -DW

:) -CN

***

What’s your favorite color? -DW

Green. -CN

What's yours? -CN

Probably blue. -DW

A good choice. -CN

Hasn’t steered me wrong, yet. -DW

***

Favorite hobby? -CN

I like to work on old cars when I’m not studying. Spruce them up and make em run nice. People pay good money for it, actually, so that probably doesn’t count as a hobby. -DW

Sounds interesting. -CN

All I know about cars is that they need wheels and they run on gas. -CN

Well, that's a great start. -DW

Thank you :) -CN

***

Ideal date? -CN

Good food, good conversation, good company. -DW

In order from most to least important? -CN

Absofuckinglutely. -DW

Hahaha. Good answer :) -CN

What about you? -DW

I could fly us both out to Venice and we could go for a romantic gondola ride on the canals at sunset and dine at the most expensive restaurant. -CN

Oh. Wow. -DW

Is it one you'd be interested in? -CN

I mean… sounds cool...but I don't really like flying and fancy restaurants kinda make me uncomfortable. -DW

Good thing that’s not my ideal date, then. -CN

Then, why’d you bring it up? -DW

Just curious as to whether or not you’d be interested. -CN

Okay… so what is your ideal date? -DW

Slow-dancing to good music just for the sake of slow-dancing. -CN

You’re full of surprises. -DW

Keeps people on their toes :) -CN

***

What about irrational fears? -CN

Getting a little more personal, you know. -DW

Soulmates tend to do that. -CN

I can’t fly in airplanes. It’s the fucking worst. But I consider that rational. -DW

Ah, right! You mentioned. I can’t believe that. I love flying :) -CN

Yeah, yeah. What about you? Irrational fears? -DW

Hmmm. I’m not a huge fan of spiders? -CN

Awwww. -DW

Awww? -CN

Spiders are alright. -DW

They are NOT. -CN

They’re cute. -DW

Like you. -DW

I appreciate the compliment but detest the comparison. -CN

I’ll consider that a win. -DW

***

You got a favorite food? -DW

A good, greasy burger. -CN

Dean? -CN

So like, I know that we already know that we’re soulmates, but I think you might be my soulmate. -DW

You never know. -CN

***

How have your shows been going? -DW

A lot less exciting in comparison to the one you went to. -CW

Haha. -DW

For the record, I went to two. -DW

You did? -CN

Yeah. You winked at me during the first one. -DW

I did? -CN

Yep. -DW

I don’t remember. I’m sorry. -CN

It’s okay. Just another face in the crowd. -DW

A very good face, though. -CN

Haha. Thanks.  -DW

Were you planning on coming to all of the concerts? -CN

No. Just the one, but then my brother insisted I do one more. Then I was going to give up. -DW

Oh. -CN

Well I'm glad it worked out. -CN

Yeah. Me too. -DW

***

Tonight is my last show. -CN

Break a last leg. -DW

About time. I was almost out of legs. -CN

What’s the plan after the show? -DW

Get some sleep. -CN

But like... after after. -DW

What would you like to do? -CN

Idk. Wanna… hang out? -DW

We don’t have to, though. -DW

No, I’d like that. -CN

I don’t know what we’d be able to do, though. -CN

What do you mean? -DW

Well. -CN

I’m trying to think of how to put this humbly. -CN

It’s difficult to do things out in public without getting stopped all of the time. I’m usually fine with it, but I’m afraid we wouldn’t enjoy much of our date. -CN

Date? -DW

Hang out. -CN

We can call it a date. -DW

Okay. -CN

What if you came over to my home and I made us some good burgers? -DW

That sounds perfect :) -CN

***

Just fyi, don’t come in that aviator glasses/trench coat combo. -DW

Oh. Why? -CN

The internet knows that’s your go-to incognito look. -DW

Oh! Good to know... -CN

***

Somehow, Dean had ended up worrying in front of his bedroom mirror more times in the past few weeks than he’d ever thought he would, and yet here he was again.

What were you supposed to look like when a pop icon and soulmate shows up to your incredibly underwhelming home that you share with your brother?

He fussed with two different shirts.

Tonight he was going on a date with Castiel.

A very chill date, but a date nonetheless, that had been planned over a text conversation.

Texting Castiel was all fine and dandy, but not all of it had felt… natural. Castiel probed a lot, and some of the time Dean felt like the things Castiel said were said just to test him. It was frustrating, but it wasn’t like Dean blamed him for it. If Dean had had people trying to trick him into thinking they were his soulmate his entire life, he’d probably be cautious too.

If only they could get past that barrier.

If only Castiel believed they were soulmates.

Dean shrugged a green henley over his head when the doorbell rang, and prayed that Sam had left the apartment for the night like Dean had asked - and wasn’t in a car somewhere with binoculars, waiting for Castiel to show up.

He ran a hand through his hair one last time and jogged to the front door, tugging it open with his head high and his hopes low, already preparing himself for the worst.

“Hey, Castiel,” Dean said.

Castiel was standing on his front porch in a deceptively simple t-shirt that was probably expensive, and nice slacks, wearing nothing in an attempt to hide or obscure who he was - which wasn’t what Dean had been expecting.

“Hello, Dean,” he said with a smile, and Dean noticed dark bags under his eyes. “Good to see you again.”

Dean stepped aside, allowing Castiel to walk into his home, his eyes drawn the obvious tattoos covering Castiel’s exposed arms. Castiel began looking around in interest, and Dean immediately felt self-conscious about everything that he owned. Obviously, his home wasn’t as big or grand like Castiel was probably used to, and nothing he owned was very expensive.

God, Castiel must think this was all some kind of cruel joke that fate was playing.

Dean cleared his throat.

“Well, it’s uh, it’s not much -”

“I think it’s beautiful.” Castiel murmured sincerely, letting his tired eyes linger on the interior for a moment longer before turning to give Dean a coy smile. “Anyway, I’m here because I was promised the best burgers of my life?”

“Hey, I don’t think that’s an exact quote -” Dean said with a laugh, and waved him into the kitchen, “ - but, now that you mention it, they will be the best burgers of your life.”

Castiel chuckled as he followed behind.

***

“So, how’d the rest of the tour go?” Dean couldn’t help but ask, as he set the patties of meat on the pan with a comforting sizzle. “You look a little overworked, no offense.”

He glanced back to the table where Castiel was sitting, to see him nod like it was an accurate observation.

“Tours are always a lot of work, but very rewarding, ultimately. And it’s some of the most fun that I have.” Castiel tilted his head to the side as he watched Dean cook. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Dean rubbed a thumb along the spatula he was holding and shrugged.

“I mean, if you want?” He gestured towards the bagged veggies he had out on the counter. “You could cut up some onions and tomatoes, I guess. If you - um, do you… know how to… cut things?”

One of Castiel’s eyebrows slowly raised comically high.

“I just don’t know ,” Castiel said, his voice dripping with a sarcasm that made Dean realize he might have fucked up slightly in his assumptions. “I should probably call my butler in to do it for me instead.”

Dean laughed uncomfortably, trying to ease past the moment - but it wasn’t enough. He’d have to say something.

“Sorry,” he muttered, focusing back on grilling the meat. He could feel his face flush red. “I guess I don’t know… anything. About... your world.”

There was a movement to his right, causing Dean to glance over and see Castiel reaching for the tomato and washing it off in the sink.

“Well, lesson one is that I do know how to cut my own vegetables,” Castiel said with a playful smile, and Dean was relieved that he hadn’t offended him too deeply.

“So uh, tell me about yourself?” Dean asked, a little awkwardly. “I mean, besides what we talked about over text.”

Castiel just shrugged his shoulders as he began to deftly slice the tomato into thin pieces.

“Don’t you already know?” Castiel glanced over and smiled wryly. “I’m an open e-book. My life story is an internet search away.”

Dean sighed and flipped one of the patties over on the pan.

“I wasn’t a fan of yours, you know. I didn’t obsess over everything about you, if that’s what you’re implying.”

Castiel’s incredulous eyebrow raised again.

“Oh?”

“I’m serious. You weren’t my type.” Dean licked his lips and shook his head. “Of music, that is. I like classic rock. The good, old stuff with singers that had big hair and lots of make-up on the album cover.”

Castiel was nodding slowly as he chopped.

“I thought you were an over-produced, autotuned nightmare to the music industry -” Dean held up a hand when Castiel opened his mouth to speak. “Yes, I know now that you’re not actually autotuned. I heard you live. But Sam was the big fan. The only reason I know what I do is because of him. Okay, and a little internet.”

Castiel huffed out a laugh.

“Alright, that’s fair.” Castiel moved the tomatoes aside and pulled out the onion. “It’s just… hard to feel like the playing field is even. You know more about me right now than I do about you.”

Really? Castiel felt like things weren’t in his favor? The popstar with millions of fans, as well as millions to his name, thought that things were skewed towards Dean? And here was Dean thinking that he was never going to be able to impress the great Castiel because of how low on the food chain he was.

“Maybe we should stop thinking of it as a playing field, then -” Dean suggested, pulling out the hamburger buns and scraping some mayo onto each one. “- and start thinking of it as what it is. Just… two people that want to figure out if they belong together.”

Dean kept his eyes fixed on the task at hand, too afraid to look over at Castiel.

“Okay.”

Dean looked up when Castiel spoke and saw that he was holding out a hand for Dean to shake, who chuckled as he reached over to grasp it.

“By the way,” Castiel said, clearing his throat awkwardly,” I didn’t mean to insinuate before that you should have been a fan of mine or that I expected you to be or that I didn’t believe you weren’t -”

Dean just let go and waved his hand dismissively.

“Don’t worry about it. I was at your concert, so…” Dean shrugged and moved the meat patties onto their prospective buns. “I don’t blame you. If it helps, I’d consider myself a fan now.”

Castiel just rolled his eyes and dolled out the chopped veggies onto each burger.

“You’re too kind.”

“I have my moments.”

A few minutes later and the burgers were grilled, stacked, and plated to perfection.

“You know that trope that you see in the movies,” Dean said, picking up his burger with both hands, “where the two people aren’t really sure if they’re going to work as soulmates, but then one of them tastes the other one’s cooking and their world explodes and it’s like, how did you ever think otherwise?”

“Yes.”

“This won’t be that, but it’ll be pretty damn close.”

Castiel laughed before taking a large bite out of Dean’s creation and began chewing thoughtfully.

“What do you think?” Dean asked, watching intently for any signs that it was less than perfect.

Castiel held up a finger, swallowed, and nodded.

“This would be paired wonderfully with a New Zealand Chardonnay,” he said thoughtfully.

“Well, funny you should say that -” Dean set the burger down, walked over to a cupboard and pulled out a bottle of whisky, a Jack Daniels, and some glasses before setting them down on the table between them. “- because I don’t have any.”

Castiel grabbed a cup and held it out to Dean with a sly smile on his face.

“This will work, too.”

***

The next few hours passed quickly, but they were also some of the most memorable hours of Dean’s life, even considering the amount of alcohol he was consuming.

“An’ so there I was - in France with one of the most famous producers in th’world - when all of a sudden -” Castiel slammed the shot glass half-full of whisky down, splashing some across the table, “- my bodyguard pushes me down onto the ground, causing this huge scene ‘cause he saw a red dot on me.”

Dean had stopped taking shots about an hour previously, and was nursing a glass of water while captivatedly listening to Castiel talk.

“Someone tried to shoot you?” he asked, his eyebrows shooting upward.

No -” Castiel shook his head much more vigorously than was necessary. “It was jus’ a reflection of someone’s shiny brooch!”

Castiel began laughing uproariously, and his laugh was an infection that Dean didn’t have an immunity to.

“You lead one exciting life, pal,” Dean said tapping his tall glass against Castiel’s short one. “Definitely more exciting than mine.”

Castiel only rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair.

“Ya’know what I think, Dean?” Castiel tilted his head to the side, and the slur in his speech from the alcohol only amplified how low and gravelly his voice really was. “I think you spend too much time comparing yourself t’me.”

Dean gaped as Castiel wagged a finger at him.

“That’s unfair t’yourself, Dean. You can do soooooo many things that I can’t.”

“Oh, don’t go there,” Dean said with a scoff. “We both know that having twenty two million followers on instagram is a bit more impressive than being able to change a tire.”

“And yet if my tire pops in the middle of nowhere, I would be useless, Dean.”

“Your chauffeur could probably change it.”

Castiel sighed, long and loud.

“I drive myself, most of the time, Dean.”

“You’re saying my name a lot.

“Maybe I like your name, Dean.”

Dean paused, snapped his mouth closed, and felt himself blush all the way to the tips of his ears.

“I, um, had one more part to this date,” Dean said, clearing his throat and rubbing at the back of his neck awkwardly.

“Really, Dean?” Castiel blinked and folded his arms in front of his chest. “I’m intrigued.”

Dean stood up, only vaguely wobbling to catch his balance, and held out his hand for Castiel to take.

After a moment of contemplation, Castiel took Dean’s hand and stood, definitely looking less balanced than Dean felt. They walked away from the table and down the hallway, stumbling and giggling as they held hands.

“Where are we going?” Castiel whispered, for whatever reason.

“My bedroom,” Dean answered.

Someone’s presumptuous.”

“No, it’s not -” Dean paused with his hand on the doorknob and shook his head. “Not for that.”

He opened the door and let go off Castiel’s hand so that he could walk over to the box of old records he kept in the corner of his room and began thumbing through them, choosing an album of slower music to put on.

“You have a record player?” Castiel asked, and Dean turned to see a spark of interest in his eyes that hadn’t been there before.

“Yep. And a bunch of old records.” Dean said, and hit the PLAY button, letting the soft guitar strums of Stairway to Heaven start to fill the room. He held out his hand once more, and licked his lips nervously. “Um, join me in a slow dance?”

Castiel’s eyes widened as a slow smile spread across his face.

“You remembered,” he said softly.

“And you might not in the morning, but I figured I’d try this out anyway,” Dean quipped back, but was relieved when Castiel took the offered hand put the other on Dean’s shoulder.

“I have surprisingly great cognitive… remembering things for being less-than-sober.” Castiel sighed and leaned forward, getting much closer than Dean had expected. “You’d be surprised.”

Dean began to sway them back in forth in time with the rhythm, resting one hand on Castiel’s waist as he did so. When he’d first decided to try out Castiel’s ideal date, he’d thought it would be incredibly awkward - but now that he was in the middle of it, with Castiel pressed close to him and music flowing between them, it wasn’t all that bad.

He could see why Castiel liked it so much.

“I used t’own this album.” Castiel murmured, his head rested against Dean’s shoulder now. “As a record, too. I used to have a lot of records, actually.”

“Yeah?” Dean smiled at that. The more they found in common, the better. “I didn’t know you liked records.”

He could feel Castiel nodding against his shoulder.

“I had a whole box of ‘em. Wham. Led Zeppelin. The Beatles. ACDC. Queen. I had a lot.”

Dean chuckled.

“I mean, I’ve got all of those too, if you wanna listen to them.”  

Castiel’s head lifted up.

“You have all of those?”

“They’re not exactly obscure.”

“What about David Bowie?”

“Uh, I think I’ve got Low and Hunky Dory.”

Castiel frowned.

“Those exact albums?”

Dean stopped swaying, feeling a little uneasy as the intensity in Castiel’s question. Nothing about those albums seemed out of the ordinary to him at all.

“Yeah, I guess,” he said warily. “Why?”

Castiel let go of Dean, stumbled over to the box with the records, and began flipping through them, reading each title carefully before moving onto the next one.

“Where did you get these?” Castiel asked, sounding breathless.

“Uh, my parents found them at a yard sale like ten years ago and got them for me.” Dean shrugged, still clueless as to what was going on, but he knew that Castiel was no longer pressed close to him, and that was kind of a bummer. “You know they’re not that rare, right? Like, they’re not worth a ton.”

A shocked Castiel paused in his combing and pulled out one album, opened the cover, and held it open in Dean’s direction.

There, in the top corner, a couple of letters had been written in black pen. Dean had never noticed them before, they were tiny.

CN.

“My parents sold my collection in a yard sale ten years ago.”

Dean opened his mouth to speak, but he couldn’t get any sound to come out. This was too much of a coincidence for either of them to ignore. What were the chances, in the entire cosmic game of soulmates, that Dean would end up with Castiel’s old music?

“What?” was all Dean could say.

“This’s bizarre,” Castiel murmured, setting the record back down and flipping through the rest of them, probably to confirm that they were all there. “You have my old records.”

“I swear I didn’t know they were yours,” Dean said preemptively, realizing how stalkerish this could look. It was ten years ago! Castiel wasn’t even famous ten years ago.

Castiel ignored the comment, and just shook his head slowly as he stood up.

“Things seem to be lining up for you, don’t they,” Castiel said, with a hint of awe in his voice. “Amazing.”

Dean didn’t know what to say to that. Everytime he thought that he could see over the walls Castiel had built around him, they only seemed to continue to grow higher. Things weren’t supposed to be lining up for him .

They were supposed to be lining up for them.

“You can have them back if you want,” Dean offered.

Castiel walked over to Dean’s bed and sat down with his head in his hands, and began rubbing at his eyes.

“I don’t understand you, Dean Winchester.”

Dean frowned, but didn’t move any closer.

After a few silent moments, Castiel looked back up, still swaying slightly from lack of balance.

“What do you want from me?” Castiel asked; his face was impossible to read, which was impressive, considering that he was mostly drunk. “Do you want to kiss me?”

“Not like this,” Dean answered. A feeling of discomfort was starting to grow in the pit of his stomach.

Castiel growled in frustration as he stood.

“Then what do you want?” he demanded, taking a step closer. “You didn’t post our soulmark all over social media, so y’don’t want the fame. You didn’t want me to take you on a lavish date t’Italy, so y’don’t want my money. You don’t want t’kiss me right now, when I’m at my most vulnerable, so you don’t just want a story to tell.”

Dean felt every statement Castiel threw at him like a punch to the gut and a bruise to his ego. These were all things that had been thought of him?

And suddenly, Castiel was very close to him again, staring him down with intense, blue eyes.

“What do you want from me, Dean?”

Dean turned his head away, refusing to look Castiel in the eyes after the tirade of confusion that had just been rained down on him.

If Castiel didn’t know by now what Dean wanted, maybe he never would.

“You can sleep in here, tonight,” Dean said quietly. “I’ll take the couch.”

Dean turned and left the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

***

It was safe to say that the date hadn’t gone exactly how Dean had planned.

He’d already woken up, knocked back a few pain pills for the small headache he’d accrued, and was now making breakfast in the kitchen while stewing over the events from the night before. Luckily, Sam still hadn’t come back from Eileen’s, so Dean was free to sort out his thoughts on his own.

Would he be okay with it, if Castiel decided that he wanted nothing to do with him anymore?

Probably. It wouldn’t feel great, but it wasn’t like it would be the end of the world for him. It would definitely hurt to know that his soulmate was out in the world and didn’t want to see him, but it wouldn’t kill him, and he’d probably get over it eventually. He’d lived this long without one, anyway.

But what he actually wanted, what he really wanted?

How could Castiel not know?

As if on cue, Dean heard the door to his bedroom open and shut, and a few moments later Castiel stumbled into the room, looking extremely hungover.

The bedhead would have been adorable if Dean wasn’t so worried about - well, everything.

Pausing in his cooking, Dean pointed to a fresh glass of water and pain pills that he’d set out for Castiel’s inevitable hangover.

Castiel nodded once in thanks, sat down at the table and popped the pills into his mouth, and sighed.

“You want a soulmate,” Castiel said in a gravelly-morning voice. “And it’s really that simple, isn’t it?”

Dean said nothing as he scrambled the eggs in a pan, because he didn’t know what to say. He thought he’d made that very clear, but maybe things were more complicated than he’d realized.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” Castiel said, and it sounded like he was being sincere. “I didn’t mean to upset you last night. I’m just… not used to people being irrevocably honest with me. Everyone lies to me or has an ulterior motive and I expected you to be the same when I thought that you were too good to be true.”

Dean snorted at that - he couldn’t help himself. If one of them was supposed to be dumbstruck by their soulmate, it was going to be Dean.

“You may think that’s a laughing matter, but I don’t.” Dean glanced back to see Castiel glaring at him, and his disheveled appearance did wonders to make him seem more intimidating. “Can’t you see it from where I’m standing? Everyone lies to me. Everyone’s wanting something from me. Everyone’s trying to play me for some reason. I mean, everyone.

Dean swallowed, not knowing what to say. I’m sorry seemed insincere, but just OK sounded callous. Castiel, meanwhile, was wincing and touching a hand to the side of his forehead, the headache obviously hitting him hard. He sighed.

“And then here comes you,” he said. “One of the most sincere people I’ve ever met.”

Dean scoffed, but Castiel held up a finger. “I thought this out. Let me finish. Because the thing is... after all this time, I’m... suspicious, and I’m cynical, and I’m just - I’m wired for a different world, Dean. And last night I acted towards you in a way you did nothing to deserve.” Castiel let out a breath as he got to the crux of his point, the deep end of his speech. “The plain fact of it is, I don’t deserve to have you as a soulmate. But I do have you, so I’m going to work until I become someone who does deserve you.”

“Alright, you made your point.” Dean said, hiding his face so Castiel couldn’t see the blush. He dumped some of the eggs and bacon he’d been frying onto a plate and scooted it in Castiel’s direction. “We’re both a fucking catch.”

Castiel reached forward and placed his hand on top of Dean’s - not grabbing him in a plea for him to stay - but a weight that hoped.

“Do you know what syncopation is, Dean?” Castiel asked after a few moments of silence.

“Uh...” Dean shrugged, sure that he’d heard the word before, but he couldn’t pinpoint what it meant. “Something about rhythm?”

“It’s when there are off-beats in music. It makes unexpected rhythm and it can sound unsteady at first, but it actually can make things more interesting and creates a beautiful kind of music.” Castiel cleared his throat, squeezing Dean’s hand ever-so-slightly. “What I’m saying is… everything about us has felt a lot like syncopation - offbeat and definitely irregular - but I think if we keep listening, we’ll realize that it’s just made something beautiful in the end.”

Dean felt his throat tighten. For the first time, he had a sense of Castiel wanting to make this work, and being willing to put in effort.

For the first time, he could believe that he might actually have a soulmate - not just a person with the same mark. A real soulmate.

He found that he couldn’t speak.

“I like you, Dean,” Castiel said, and Dean’s eyes were fixed on his intense stare. “I know we don’t know each other well yet, but I like you, and I think that could easily become something more.”

Dean felt his blush grow a much deeper shade of pink at the admission - like he was some kind of teenager who’d heard that someone had a crush on him for the first time.

“Yeah,” he managed to squeak out. “Me too.”

Castiel’s face visibly brightened at that.

“Really?”

“Yeah, of course,” Dean croaked. “I mean... you have solid taste in music so you can bet your ass I’m gonna try my hardest not to let you get away from me.”

Castiel threw his head back and laughed, then sucked in a sharp breath and groaned - bringing a hand up to his head. The other hand was still resting on Dean’s, a comfortable weight.

“Remind me not to drink so much the night before we have our next heart-to-heart conversation,” he muttered, then drained the glass of any water it had left. He closed his eyes against the sun in the kitchen.

Dean chuckled and brought Castiel’s hand to his lips on a whim, placing a light kiss on his knuckles. He kept it swift, but his lips were soft and it was more than just a peck; he let go of Castiel’s hand afterwards, as though to compensate for the intimacy.

“You got it,” he said.

Castiel peeked one eye open.

“That was almost where I want you to kiss me.”

“Don’t you have a hangover?” Dean asked, lifting one eyebrow teasingly.

Castiel leaned forward, his blue eyes bright with expectation as they flicked down to Dean’s lips.

“It’ll be worth it.”

And who was Dean to argue with that?

Dean leaned forward, his heart racing wildly, and placed a gentle kiss onto Castiel’s lips. It was so much, so easy and so complicated; after a few moments, he lightly pushed his hand through Castiel’s hair, curling his fingers round as though this - this kiss, this moment, this person, everything - were treasure, the most beautiful thing he’d ever held.

And he planned on never letting go.

***

“Sam!” Dean yelled, touching his hair up as he looked at himself in the living room mirror. “Are you almost done? We’re gonna be late!”

“Oh, like Cas isn’t going to be?”

Dean smiled to himself and shrugged his shoulders. Castiel was a busy guy with a schedule that he sometimes couldn’t control. Such was the price of fame.

“And if he just so happens to be on time this time, we’ll look like assholes.” Dean straightened his jacket and checked his watch.

Sam finally came into the living room a few moments later, with Eileen right behind him.

“And I’m sure he will never forgive you,” Sam said, with an eyeroll.

“Ha. Ha.” Dean glanced over at Eileen and began signing as he talked. “Are you ready to go?”

“I’ve been ready for fifteen minutes,” she said back, then looked at Sam with a fond smile. “It’s this guy who had to make sure his hair looked nice.”

Hey -”

“Great!” Dean rested his hands on his hips and took in a deep breath. “Then let’s do this.”

It was almost a pity that Sam was now on such casual terms with Castiel. The first time they’d met had been a hilarious mess of Sam barely being able to get any words out, and shaking his hand enthusiastically at least five different times throughout the day.

Dean really wished he’d got it on film for future blackmail material.

The car ride was spent with them all jamming out to Castiel’s album with the volume on full blast, purely because Dean found it extra adorable that Castiel would get completely red in the face whenever he found them listening to his music. Sometimes, Dean had to remind him that he was a hit pop-artist whose songs were literally on the radio 24/7.

Dean pulled into the recording studio and stopped in front of the security checkpoint, waving at Anna inside of the booth.

“Hey, Dean. Sam. Eileen.” She grinned at them and leaned out of her window. “It’s been a few days. Did you die?”

“Nah. Just had some engineering tests to take.” He pulled out his pass and handed it to her. “What’s the haps here?”

“Castiel’s almost done recording, or so I’m told.” She scanned it quickly and handed it back. “And you just missed the paparazzi, so that’s lucky timing on your part. Though, if they had known you were coming, I’m sure they would have stuck around.”

Dean chuckled and shoved the pass back into his glove compartment.

“Shame,” he said, shaking his head in mock-regret. “I’m sure they’ll get over it.”

“Missing out on that pretty face?” Anna teased, pressing the button to open the gate. “Probably not. You looked so good on the cover of People last week.”

“I looked blurry, that’s for sure.”

They both laughed as she waved Dean through.

Told you he’d be late,” Sam said smugly.

“She said he was almost done,” Dean retorted, pulling into his usual parking space. “He might be done right now.”

Sam made a disbelieving grunt from the backseat.

They walked through the - now familiar - recording studio where Castiel spent most of his time, now that he was working on a new album. Dean didn’t mind all that much, especially since he’d been prepping for the last tests he’d hopefully ever have to take in college.

After years of waiting and searching, time was the last thing that Dean was worried about.

They finally reached Castiel’s door and opened it slowly, revealing the small recording room with more sound equipment in one place than Dean had ever seen before in his life - as well as Castiel’s producer, and Castiel himself behind a sheet of glass with headphones half on his ears.

The moment he saw Dean, his face lit up and he took off the headset and headed for the door.

“Dean!” Castiel pulled him into a hug and held tight like he hadn’t seen him in week, when in reality it had been maybe twenty-four hours. “Good to see you.”

“Hey, you too.” Dean pulled back and pressed what he’d meant to be quick kiss onto Castiel’s lips, but held on for a little longer until he heard Sam making a loud sighing noise behind them.

“And you didn’t want to be late.

Dean broke off and rolled his eyes.

“Let a guy kiss his soulmate, okay?” He let his hand drop down to grab Castiel’s. “Are you ready for dinner, babe?”

Castiel squeezed back and nodded with a smile.

“I’m ready for anything, as long as you’re there.”

Dean could feel a blush rising to his face, and cleared his throat loudly in an attempt to hide it.

“That was real sappy for a line about dinner, Cas.”

Castiel only chuckled and kissed Dean on the cheek.

“Only the best for you,” he said.